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Article Index
The ‘Our Father’ of My Childhood
The Contexts of the Story
The Historical Context of the Our Father
My Historical Context
Blending Contexts in an On-going History
Companions on the Way
The Word ‘Debt/Indebted’ in the Our Father
Main Focus on Luke 11:4
Usual Interpretation of ‘Sin’ and ‘Debt’
Larger Than Sin
Indebtedness in Jesus’ Historical Setting
Where has the Jubilee Year Gone?
Rabbi Hillel’s Prosbul
The Significance of the Word ‘Debt’
The Jubilee Year in the Lk 4:16-30
More Than Sin-Orientation: The Kingdom of God
Breaking Fixed or Petrified Perspectives
Re-reading Lk 11:4 Through Jesus’ Eyes
Re-reading Lk 11:4 Through the Eyes of an Awakened, Poor Jew
Re-reading Lk 11:4 in the Larger Context of Luke’s Gospel
Lk 18: 18-27: a Commentary on Luke’s ‘Our Father’.
Social Justice in the Larger Context of Luke-Acts
Re-reading Lk 11:4 in the Context of Acts 2 and 4
Re-reading Luke 11:4 in My Context
The Need for an Alternative Spirituality
Before We Part Ways: Time to Recharge and Refresh
As We Part
All Pages

Re-reading Lk 11:4 Through the Eyes of an Awakened, Poor Jew. Earlier, we mentioned about a message which Luke may have wanted to convey when he juxtaposed the words, ‘sin’ and ‘indebted’ in the ‘Our Father’. We explore this thoroughly in the succeeding discussions.

In Jesus’ time, for an awakened Jew who suffered from poverty, slavery and dehumanization due to heavy indebtedness, the words, “And forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us” may have aroused these thoughts:

(i) Hillel, elite leaders and rich lenders, you ought to be converted and ask for forgiveness. Your prosbul makes you and the lenders sin against Yahweh. Through it you remove the protection of the poor; hence, you violate the Torah. Yahweh wants the poor to be liberated from all evils especially oppression, poverty, injustice and exploitation. Pressing the poor to indebtedness down to slavery through the prosbul is perpetuating social injustice which has been a great sin of our ancestors since the glorious days of the monarchy. Remember these sayings of the prophets:

Amos 2:6-8

Thus says the Lord:

For three transgressions of Israel,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;

because they sell the righteous for silver,

and the needy (poor) for a pair of sandals

they who trample the head of the poor

into the dust of the earth,and push the afflicted

out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl,

so that my holy name is profaned;

they lay themselves down beside every altar

on garments taken in pledge;

and in the house of their God they drink

wine bought with fines they imposed.

Micah 2:1-5

Alas for those who devise wickedness

and evil deeds on their beds!

When the morning dawns, they perform it,

because it is in their power.

They covet fields, and seize them;

houses, and take them away;

they oppress householder and house,

people and their inheritance.

(ii) Hillel, elite leaders and lenders, remember that when you ask forgiveness, you have to bring back the original practice of the Jubilee Year, especially its provision on the cancellation of the debts of the poor so that they may not be doomed to indebtedness and slavery. Forgive everyone indebted to you. Wash yourselves clean by giving justice and liberation back to the poor and oppressed. Remove then your prosbul and revive the authentic spirit of the Jubilee Year. You see, it is the practice of social justice that Yahweh wants, not your sacrifices or pompous liturgies. Again, heed these words of Yahweh through his prophet:

Isaiah 1:11-17

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and Sabbath and calling of convocation—

I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

Your new moons and your appointed festivals

my soul hates; they have become a burden to me,

I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Based on the aforementioned, we may say then that in Lk 11:4, “And forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us” the message is: the condition for the forgiveness of the sins of the rich and powerful is the practice of social justice which is concretely exemplified in the Jubilee Year provision on the release, cancellation or forgiveness of the indebted of their debts. The sin referred to in here is social injustice which, in Jesus’ time, may have referred to the unjust and oppressive practices like forced labors, tributes to Rome and the Temple, and the institution of the prosbul which removed the poor people’s protection from indebtedness, poverty and slavery. Accordingly, Lk 11:4 may be paraphrased thus: ‘Forgive us our sins (of social injustice) because we are now practicing social justice (that is, we now release the poor from oppressive, unjust and impoverishing indebtedness). This interpretation fits well with Jewish prophetic tradition and also with Jewish wisdom tradition. Proverbs 14: 31, 17:5 counsels: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker…” Truly, oppressing the poor through circumvention of the Jubilee Year provisions is an insult and therefore a sin against Yahweh. Forgiveness of this, to repeat, requires the practice of social justice. Thus goes the alternative reading of the ‘Our Father’ of my childhood.


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